AFTER A long drought of both rain and good oratorical music in Madras, the SHAMAS presentation of Mendelssohn's ELIJAH on February 14, at the Egmore Wesley Church was as welcome as a monsoon shower! Sponsored by the Max Mueller Bhavan and under the able baton of Damayanti Santwan it was a delightful evening. Pianist Arul Siromoney accompanied the choir with elan.
The oratorio opened with Elijah's grim prophecy of ``neither rain nor dew these years shall fall," which William Howie as the prophet intoned with feeling and foreboding. Siromoney's overture representing the three years of famine, had despair and hope, and moments of inspired playing which surfaced throughout the two and a half hour recital.
The choir set the tone for the rest of the performance with an excellent rendering of ``Help Lord" which ran the gamut of emotion: pleading, demanding, begging the Lord would have been hard put not to hear them.
Soprano Jane Charles and mezzo-soprano Sabita Currimbhoy gave a pleasing air to their duet ``Lord bow Thine ear" ably supported by the chorus.
The double quartet of Angels that followed was crisp and balanced. The eight-part chorus to Baal, which is a highlight of Elijah, had all the necessary verve and vigour. The derisive singing in ``Mark how the scorner derideth us" was well portrayed, the bass line however, was the weak point. The demanding chorus, ``Fire descends from Heaven," started well, but did not live up to the high standard of the rest of the singing.
The chorus of Angels ``He watching over Israel" was especially fine, soulful and moving. ``Behold God the Lord passeth by" was a study in contrasts. Full of fire and fury, with the shading of tone giving depth and feeling to the words. The closing quartet, ``O come everyone that thirsteth" with Cleone Abraham, Sabita Currimbhoy, John Abraham and Benny Samuel was soulfully and beautifully sung with a delicate balance between the singers. Soprano Jane Charles let her clear high tone emulate the Youth sighting a cloud in a brassy sky. Each Air and Recitative was sung with feeling.
Soprano Cleone Abraham gave a dramatic and moving portrayal of the grieving widow; anger, grief and despair were all there. Her modulation, control and clarity in every solo were excellent: a very fine performance indeed.
It was good to hear the entire oratorio sung with no cuts, but exigencies of time and talent call for some degree of editing, which lower an excellent performance to a merely good one. The final chorus was indeed a grand finale. With all stops pulled out, the choir, accompanist and conductor sent out a paen of praise ``Thou fillest heaven with glory" and certainly a little bit of earth at Wesley Church resounded with glory too. A fitting ending to a great evening of music.
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